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Preview: Comments on: A Serious Look at Beaverton

Comments on: A Serious Look at Beaverton

Peace, Justice and Hockey

Last Build Date: Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:57:42 +0000


By: Steve

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:54:28 +0000

I don't think NoPo is racist (though his chosen moniker certainly rubs me the wrong way, as does his dogmatic allegiance to "new urbanist" thinking and blind rejection of the fact that a suburban school district somewhere might handle socio-economic integration better than PPS -- which isn't exactly high praise for said suburban district.) My overriding point, since I started writing about this stuff several months ago, is that PPS policy aggravates problems of race and economics with its transfer policy. Schools that have high concentrations of poverty can't solve the problems of poverty -- right. But school districts don't have to concentrate poverty and segregate by race, as PPS clearly does. Isn't it odd that other urban districts have policies that attempt to desegregate, despite recent setbacks by the Supreme Court, yet Portland maintains an effectively segregationist policy? At any rate, Portland clearly has more in common with large suburban school districts like Beaverton than it does with urban districts like Chicago or Oakland or Philadelphia. It's fun for people to pretend they live in the inner city here in bucolic Portland, but the reality is our schools look far more "urban" than the suburban-like neighborhoods they sit in. That's the rub. I'm closing comments on this post, since we're pretty far off topic, and I'm afraid somebody's going to be accused of being a Nazi soon. I don't think Godwin's Law has ever been invoked on this blog, and I'd like to see that it doesn't.

By: marcia

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 05:18:35 +0000

Excellent article, NoPo parent. It sort of says it all...And no achievement gap is going to be bridged until people focus on the societal problems that cause it.

By: NoPo Parent

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 04:23:34 +0000

Steve B. - I appreciate your acknowledgment of the difficulty and complexity that surrounds discussions of race. As I said, large concentrations of low-income blacks present challenges that schools cannot handle alone. The schools can't handle them because they're being asked to do too much with jack squat for funding. As Noel Epstein wrote in the Washington Post on 11/27/05: "(Public schools) not only provide before-school programs, breakfasts, lunches, after-school care, afternoon snacks and sometimes dinners (as well as summertime meals). They also instruct children about sex and, in many places, teach them to drive. They face growing pressure to take tots as early as age 3 in pre-kindergarten programs. They share responsibility for keeping children off drugs, making sure they don't carry weapons, instilling ethical behavior, curbing AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, battling alcohol abuse, preventing student suicides, discouraging cigarette smoking, tackling child obesity, heading off gang fights, providing a refuge for homeless children, ensuring that students are vaccinated, boarding some pupils, tending to toddlers of teenage mothers and otherwise acting in loco parentis in ways not anticipated a generation ago." There's little doubt that what is happening in a large number of schools, especially inner-city schools, is horrible. But we have to ask this simple question: what should schools be responsible for doing? Or, to use the current parlance, what are schools accountable for? If you say that schools are accountable for acting as surrogate parents, taking kids off the street for 9 months out of the year, giving them lots of busywork, and pumping them full of facts in order to prepare for state standardized tests, I'd argue that schools are doing pretty well. But if you say that schools are accountable for preparing the future citizens of America, for creating doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, and scientists, for inculcating a sense of civic duty and a desire to be ethical and honest, and to compensate for the economic disparities that exist between the wealthiest and poorest Americans, I'd say the vast majority of schools -- even the "good" ones -- are not doing their jobs at all. So what would it take for schools to be able to perform their duties, to fulfill the aspirations of our country and our planet and ensure that all will be well when our children are handed the reins and take over? Listen to Noel Epstein again: "It's time to put an end to all the headlines about achievement problems in our schools -- a far easier chore than most people imagine. All we need to do is two things: First, stop calling those establishments simply schools, when they're really hybrid institutions that are raising many of our children, not just educating them. Then ensure that those who deliver family-like services there are devoted exclusively to those tasks, so that the educators can focus fully on academics." Even with the things that we can show are working, dumping boatloads of cash into schools is not going to significantly affect what happens in them because we are doing nothing to change what is happening outside them. So how can schools be accountable? Let them be accountable for what they're supposed to be accountable for.

By: Steve Buel

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 03:35:15 +0000

Hyacinth, one of the problems which I see in addressing race in the public schools, or society in general, is the leveling of racist charges at people who try to discuss the topic. Not too long ago on this or Terry Olsen's blog, can't remember which, I had someone label me as a racist. Guess you could argue that, and sometimes I wonder about that myself, but really you won't find another white person in Portland who has better credentials than I have in dealing with race and PPS. They just don't exist. So how does that help the conversation, which is such an important one, if we continue to take nuances of arguments, often stated in pretty concise language, and blow them up to the level of suggesting someone is something which they find abhorrent?

By: NoPo Parent

Mon, 15 Oct 2007 00:29:36 +0000

Oh, dear. I suppose it was bound to happen. We start playing the race card. Darn. Just for the record: I'm a white male. And one of my kids is enrolled in PPS in a Jefferson cluster school where half the kids are white and the other half of the kids are minorities. The school is a Title 1 school, which means that more than 40% of the kids qualify for free or reduced price lunch. I'd love to send my kids to the neighborhood schools, as I'm a big supporter of public education. But I don't like the instructional approach at these schools, as they are being forced to implement the new adopted curricula, e.g., Scott Foresman's Reading Street at the elementary level. But if these schools were able to teach kids in a way that fed their curiosity and nurtured their development, I'd send my children there if all the students were bright green or a pale shade of magenta. I don't give a shit about race. I care about high-quality education. But all too often, as last year's Center on Education Policy report makes clear, schools with high concentrations of low-income ethnic minorities are turned into test-prep factories that concentrate almost exclusively on basic reading and math skills at the expense of other subjects like art, foreign languages, music, and PE in order to boost test scores.

By: Hyacinth

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 21:49:59 +0000

Oh, so finally the truth comes out. You, NoPo Peter, are racist. The PPS transfer system exists exactly for people like you who would never even consider sending their children to a school "with a large concentration of low-income blacks." Part of the problem nationwide with those schools with "large concentrations of low-income blacks, is the challenge of racism that those schools and students and families must overcome. The PPS transfer system is part of the problem and so are you.

By: NoPo Parent

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 18:04:30 +0000

OK, Steve. Understood. But please allow me one last set of observations and then I'll shut up. Promise. Every one of the arguments you make in your last post are dead on. No arguments from me. But in the summary of your points, you don't repeat one of the main points of your original post: Beaverton schools are more integrated. I think we both now know, after looking at the data, that Beaverton schools are not more integrated. The schools do, however, reflect the demographic make-up of the surrounding areas, which you sometimes call "neighborhoods" and at other times call "catchment areas." As I noted, as did someone else, the Beaverton area doesn't exactly have "neighborhoods," so "catchment area" is probably a better term. But the fact that the Beaverton schools reflect the demographic make-up of the surrounding catchment areas is not -- IMHO -- something to necessarily celebrate. PPS's Ainsworth elementary in the West Hills also reflects the demographic make-up of the surrounding neighrborhood, but no one is touting Ainsworth's de facto segregation as an accomplishment. After looking at this in some detail, I've come to the conclusion that there is no enlightened policy in Beaverton, just the absence of a transfer policy. Finally, we have to take a long hard stare at why the transfer policy exists at all in PPS and why it does not exist in Beaverton. I'd argue that there are transfers in PPS and not in Beaverton because PPS has a larger percentage -- much, much larger -- of black students and low-income students. And, as we all know by looking at every other urban school district in the country, large concentrations of low-income blacks present challenges that schools cannot handle alone. So the schools often suffer. And who wants to send their kids to a suffering school? I don't. And, judging from your comments about Jefferson, neither do you.

By: Steve

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 05:01:52 +0000

Peter, one more time, then I'm done going around with you on this. Portland Public Schools has a policy -- open transfer enrollment -- that segregates schools by class and race. Beaverton School District does not have this policy. Students attend their neighborhood schools. In Portland, schools are more segregated than their neighborhoods. In Beaverton, schools reflect the demographics of their neighborhoods. These facts are a direct result of policy. Beaverton does this better. Period.

By: NoPo Parent

Sun, 14 Oct 2007 04:44:26 +0000

I checked and you're right, Steve. No Beaverton school is more than 80% white. 17 schools in PPS are more than 80% white. There are others that are close to 80%. There are, however, 10 schools in Beaverton with 70 to 77% white student population. So are we splitting hairs here? We need to problematize what we mean by "integrated." There's racial diversity and integration, and then there's economic diversity and integration. 45% of PPS students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. But only 32% of Beaverton students are eligible. So Beaverton schools are neither ethnically diverse nor economically diverse. I'm not fixated on the black population. I'm trying to underscore the issue of systemic, prolonged, historically-based racism and poverty that exists in the black community. Since PPS has a larger population of low-income blacks, it has a longer row to hoe. Beaverton simply does not have this problem. I'd argue that not having to deal with this problem makes life in the Beaverton schools a hell of a lot easier. Yes, 1 out of 3 students in Beaverton is eligible for free/reduced price lunch. But there are no data for which ethnic group constitutes the bulk of those eligible. I think it's probably safe to say that Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders account for the bulk of those eligible, and that the majority of these folks are immigrants. There's a large body of research that shows that the experience of low-income Hispanic and Asian/Pacifc Islander immigrants is qualitatively different from that of low-income, native-born blacks and that recent immigrants are more likely to be able to escape poverty than native-born blacks. So, to restate my point to be clear: Beaverton schools are not more integrated. There is no policy in place in Beaverton to make schools integrated. And even if there were, it's clearly not working. I completely agree that PPS policy has created a separate and unequal school system. But let's not celebrate Beaverton for being better at this. They're not.

By: Steve

Sat, 13 Oct 2007 23:58:15 +0000

I need to double check this, but last I checked, no school in Beaverton is more than 80% white. Quite a few in Portland are. The "urban core" you speak of surrounding Jefferson is far from what any serious demographer would consider as such. Yes, Jefferson is majority black, but its attendance area is not. This is precisely my point: PPS policy has created a separate and unequal school system. By contrast, Beaverton schools reflect the demographics of their neighborhoods. I'm not sure why you're fixated on the black population. There are more Latinos and Asians in Beaverton than in Portland. Is there a problem with that? Or is diversity just code for black? I'll restate my point, just to be clear: Beaverton schools are more integrated than Portland schools by policy. The segregation of PPS by race and economics by policy is what I'm talking about.